Can you accept something that you were not yet told you were entitled to? That is the question that Yorktown candidates Michael Grace and Tom DeChiaro are asking the Supreme Court in White Plains to decide.
Grace and DeChiaro have filed a lawsuit against the Westchester County Board of Elections and three candidates that are seeking to gain the Independence Party line on this year’s ballot.
“This is not an election law issue,” said Grace, an attorney who is running for supervisor. “It is just a document issue.”
“We have a really simple application,” added Grace. “We believe that the certificates of acceptance should be nullified because each of them states ‘having been designated and/or nominated.’ But they were not designated on July 10, 11 or 12. The nominating meeting did not happen until July 13 according to the Independence Party Authorization Form so their certificates of acceptance are false. They should then be nullified.”
The action filed by Grace, a former Yorktown town attorney, and DeChiaro who is running for councilman, cites that supervisor candidate Don Peters, Councilman Nick Bianco and council candidate Dave Paganelli signed notarized certificates of acceptance “that attest to having been designated by the Independence Party as the candidate prior to the meeting authorizing their designations.” The claim is that by having signed the certificates ahead of the nominating meeting “the certificates of acceptance being facially and fatally false.”
According to the certificate of authorization signed by Westchester Independence Party Chairman Dr. Giulio Cavallo, the meeting to designate or nominate candidates did not occur until July 13. Paganelli signed his certificate of acceptance on July 10, Bianco on July 11 and Peters on July 12.
Under state election law, a person designated as a candidate for nomination or for party position other than for the party the person is affiliated with must “in a certificate signed and acknowledged by him…accept the designation or nomination as a candidate.”
However, the law also states “a political party may, by a majority vote of those present at such meeting provided a quorum is present, authorize the designation or nomination of a person as candidate for any office who is not enrolled as a member of such party.”
“Once the acceptance certificates are nullified,” said DeChiaro, “then it becomes an election law issue because they did not file proper certificates of acceptance by the deadline.”
Bianco, the only party in the lawsuit who is currently holding an elected office, considers the lawsuit petty. “This I think this is just another frivolous suit by Mr. DeChiaro of Mahopac,” Bianco said. “Now it appears that his mouthpiece is unfortunately Michael Grace. I don’t know what they are talking about; it is between them and the Independence Party.”
Bianco, a registered Conservative, must file a certificate of acceptance for the Republican line. The Republicans had their nominating meeting in April. Bianco stated that he filed his certificate “around the same time as the Independence one.”
“I do not know what the protocol is but by state law there is a window that you have to put it in by,” said Bianco. “It says you must file it no later than a specific deadline. I believe I applied mine at the right time. If these guys want to go down the road of frivolous lawsuits let them. I am confident that we have done everything in proper form.”
“It is a technicality and I saw general objections about it,” said Peters, a former town supervisor, “but I feel pretty confident about it.”
Peters went on to describe how he was a “little annoyed” by Grace and DeChiaro. “Neither one went on the interviews nor did they go through the whole process,” he said. “Yet now they want to take over the line.”
“I was proud that the Independence Party chose me, along with the entire slate through a democratic process, by interviews and qualifications, and these two individuals did not participate in this process, and are trying to bypass and circumvent the system,” Peters added.
Peters said that he and other interested in the Independence Party endorsement went for interviews in May and early June.In May, Peters claimed that he received the nod from the Independence Party. No official press release was sent out from the party recognizing local endorsements.
Paganelli was out of town and was unaware of the lawsuit and did not want to comment on it without having read it.
Both sides will appear in court this Thursday, Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. At that time the judge will listen to arguments as well as a related issue concerning the petitions of Grace and DeChiaro to force an opportunity to ballot on the Independence line.
According to DeChiaro, his opponents are challenging several signatures and the names on the replacement committee on his and Grace’s petitions. DeChiaro and Grace are confident that they can overturn the challenge in court.
“If the opportunity to ballot goes back and these certificates are thrown out then anyone can run for the line as a write-in candidate,” DeChiaro said.